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Scholarship change affects tech colleges
The acting president of Altamaha Technical College says she is just as surprised as anyone by the impact a change in Georgia's HOPE scholarship has had on the student body.

Thousands of technical school students across the state failed to qualify for the scholarship funded through lottery proceeds after the state raised the qualifying requirement from a 2.0 grade point average to 3.0. Among them were 211 students at the five campuses of Altamaha Technical College, including the one in Glynn County.

"I don't think anyone anticipated the change in HOPE requirements having the impact that it did," said Lonnie Roberts, acting president of Altamaha Technical College, which has its main campus at Jesup.

Statewide, some 11,000 students enrolled in technical education programs lost their scholarships.

Students in junior and baccalaureate colleges had been required to earn a 3.0 all along, but technical school students had to have only a 2.0 to qualify for the grant until the change in 2011. Lawmakers raised the requirement in a cost-saving measure.

Now, Altamaha Tech is facing the same issue as others in the state. Of the 11,471 total students who lose the HOPE grant, only 20 percent stayed at school and graduated. Only 49 of the 211 Altamaha Technical College students re-enrolled.

The impact did not fail to grab the attention of lawmakers, who decided to return to the old way and lower the GPA requirement back to 2.0 for technical schools starting this semester.

"We appreciate the state legislature and governor recognizing this impact and their action to return HOPE requirements to the 2.0 GPA level," Roberts said.

Now, she said, "Altamaha Technical College is working to get those students back who did not return and will continue to promote the HOPE program while endeavoring to increase enrollment."

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at slundgren@thebrunswicknews.com, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 322.



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